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Do Chinese spies really hang out at a Capitol Hill bar?

WASHINGTON – Spies might be all around us in Washington. Maybe the secret foreign agent is the guy you’re chatting with at that embassy cocktail party, or the attractive woman who just asked you out – it might even be the dude on the next stool at a Capitol Hill bar, according to a Monday report in the Atlantic.

Among the evidence reporter Molly Ball cites includes a young Hill staffer who was offered his annual salary, in cash, for documents from the Agriculture Committee. OK, so Hill staffers are offered bribes, that’s not entirely surprising. But this caught our eye: The staffer also described “a friend who worked for a member of the Agriculture Committee was told to watch out for Chinese spies who supposedly hung out at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a Capitol Hill bar, to eavesdrop on staffers’ conversations.”

The Hawk n’ Dove, for those unfamiliar with the Hill bar scene, is a longtime watering hole on the House side of Capitol Hill in a stretch of bars and takeout joints along Pennsylvania Avenue, favored by staffers, lobbyists and tourists. The “Hawk,” as it’s often referred to, used to be on the divey side, but it got a fancier makeover and new ownership a few years back.

We ran the Chinese-spies-at-the-Hawk rumor by a few Hill staffers, who said they hadn’t heard anything about it. And if there are intelligence-gathering types sidling up to the craft-beer taps, that would be news to the bar staff. “I haven’t seen anything suspicious – any weird stuff going on,” waiter Hector Marinas tells us.

But then again, that’s the point of spycraft, right?